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Everything posted by charlotte_asia

  1. I don't think it matters in the least. The distinction between international relations and public policy is more an imposed one by the academic world. It is not very rigid or tangible. Yes, doing more theoretical IR work (such as with a think tank) versus more policy and programming work may develop slightly different skill sets, but I think this only impacts your competitiveness and profile for future jobs, not for graduate schools. Apply for all jobs that you are interested in and that will give you substantive experience in your field. Grad schools of either type will value your profile.
  2. Echoing what others have said: having family in Pakistan or other sensitive country is not going to bar you in and of itself from a security clearance. I know Pakistani-Americans and Kashmiri-Americans who were born overseas, naturalized, and received clearances. I also know FSOs with family members with records or run-ins with the law who have obtained clearances. It certainly will take some time. One thing you can do in the meantime is start gathering all your old addresses, contacts, references, their contact info, etc. e-Quip (the form you fill out for your clearance) is dozens of pages long and asks for extensive information. Getting all of that in place now could help when you quickly turn around your e-Quip and start the clearance process. Your critical language skills (by advance intermediate I'm guessing that's a 2+ or a 3 on the language scale?) are certainly going to give you a bump on the waitlist if you pass your orals. In other words, you will receive extra language points over someone who just knows Spanish. Like FSOonthego said though, it doesn't impact your security clearance. The FS really values diversity, so you could be quite an asset to the Department. It would be worth applying, if that's really what you want to do.
  3. CGChick, please feel free to come back if you have further questions or want to talk through more ideas. I think all of us would be more than happy to help
  4. Admission to a program is only half the battle. Getting out with no experience in the field and competing with other MA in Int'l Affairs/PP degree holders would be quite difficult. (JAubrey, I think this is what you are referring to when you're talking about being competitive in the field of IC/defense?) Which is why I think the OP would need to work her way in laterally (and slowly), and using her technical production/film/digital arts background to get a foothold in the field. I absolutely think it's doable, especially by connecting in with ngos/international orgs who use film for advocacy purposes. This could build expertise in IR work, and be a stepping stone to a diplomatic career. (Not so sure about moving into defense/intelligence work and how that could be done). I guess I still stand by the work first-pursue degree path that I suggested in my first post. Career change is completely possible, but I don't know why folks are always so eager to do so through schooling, not work experience. ETA: See my above post for a more fulsome explanation of how I think the transition could work. I have seen it done by people in the computer programming field.
  5. Maybe try to use your technical expertise to wiggle my way into the field to explore it before plunging headfirst into an MA in a field you've never worked in before. There are lots of places where digital arts/film/production could intersect with international relations. The easiest that comes to mind is lending your expertise to NGOs like WITNESS, ENOUGH project, the UN, which use film for advocacy, human rights protection, etc. Almost all organizations link up with producers/digital arts folks at some point or another to create 25th anniversary videos, advocacy projects, and the like. Just go to idealist.org for some initial ideas. Alternatively, there are lots of initiatives overseas that work with emerging filmmakers in developing countries. Maybe take a year and go work with them? Many filmmakers are socially engaged, using their skills to address social justice or policy issues in their country. Collaborating with them could help you build an understanding and experience between your technical background and your possible future career. Once you have a bit of experience working on international relations issues you may be able to work your way into the program/IR side of things. I know people with computer programming or other hard technical backgrounds who have done this in the human rights world- start out as an organization's IT person and then manage their way onto the human rights program side of things. A few years of experience in this capacity- working with international actors on international issues- and you could be a great candidate to apply to the Foreign Service (who has people from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds) as a public affairs officer.... or doing media work for the UN or some similar multilateral organization. I think you have a great hard skill set that could be welcomed in the international development, and possibly international relations, world. Regarding intelligence work, I'm not so sure how easy a career change would be. My friends who landed intelligence/security/defense jobs right out of undergrad (Analyst jobs at the Agency, security consulting companies, security/defense think tanks, certain positions at State) did so with related bachelors degrees and internships. I do have friends with very unrelated backgrounds who broke into defense work through a few years of unglamorous defense contracting work. You could possibly, maybe, potentially do the latter with a lot of networking, and a few years doing pretty boring, unglamorous work for Raytheon or some other big contractor before working your way in. But is that really want you want to do? It sounds like you want to do what most people *think* a diplomat does . I think you could work your way into the Foreign Service, though I'll admit, as the fiancee of an FSO, it's not as glamorous as most people think, except at the really high levels. Still, it's a really interesting, fulfilling line of work that you could feasibly break into. Lots of FSOs are on their second or third career. Anyway, all this to say I think you could definitely make a career change, but I would make the career change and then SEE if you NEED an MA... not go for the MA and see what jobs you could get (likely very few, if you had no relevant experience). Use your technical expertise in film production/digital arts to your advantage- your comparative advantage. I imagine NGOs, public affairs branches of institutions would love it. Good luck!
  6. rose1, that's funny, I felt SAIS was very helpful. That said, I had Georgetown Government in comparison, which I felt like I had to drag basic information out of, like classes I could take and when financial aid would be available. I also didn't contact SAIS directly, but rather had a lot of contact with friends and friends of friends I already knew who were at SAIS or recently graduated. I definitely found Tufts and Elliot more forward in sending information, current students initiating contact, etc. But I still was very satisfied by how I was treated by SAIS as an admitted student-- the online chats, the clear info about financial aid, etc. I get the sense from nearly every student with whom I've spoken that the camaraderie, morale, and cohesiveness among students is very high. I have to think that some of that is as a result of a very positive experience while at SAIS (and, by extension, support/help from the school and faculty). This was a definitely a factor I considered while comparing SAIS with other programs. Just some thoughts, albeit a bit scattered. Maybe a current student could provide more substantial advice!
  7. Right, the website says you must meet at least one of the criteria listed. I do not think I qualify, because the micro and macro classes I took were Principles of Micro and Macro, not Intermediate Micro and Intermediate Macro. I just wanted to confirm this with a current student. No big deal if I can't... getting one class out of the way will be fine.
  8. Regarding taking two classes during Preterm.... the website says you must have taken intermediate Micro and Macro with B-s or above in both. Does this apply to Principles of Micro and Micro, or do the classes need to be labeled Intermediate Micro and Macro? (I'm confused because the SAIS classes are intermediate level, so why would you need to take them again if you have already taken intermediate micro/macro and not the waiver exam?)
  9. Smart idea!! Another former student and friend of mine advised taking 3 classes the last semester to ensure ample time for job searching, but I like the idea of taking 2 and saving on tuition. It takes a lot of work the prior semesters but could be worth it.Thanks for sharing IRToni.
  10. Rose, thank you for sharing all of these insights! I just decided this weekend I'm heading to SAIS and I'm really happy to hear my impressions of SAIS reinforced by what you and cali experienced during visits. I am overseas so I could not attend the Open Houses and have had to rely on thoughts of former/current students, and Open House attendees. My decision was a bit different from yours. I was accepted to Fletcher but ruled it out because my fiance will be in DC and splitting up during our first year of marriage + taking on additional costs for living/housing would not have made it worthwhile. I was deciding between Georgetown Government, not SFS, and SAIS. I have continued to be impressed with SAIS's rigorous curriculum, its dedicated faculty, and the attention it has given to me as an admitted student. I think quality of student life at SAIS is high and the value of the degree is high as well. I will be like you and cali- my interests do not fit neatly into one concentration. I will be taking classes in IDEV, Am Foreign Policy, and International Law. I'll have to figure out my first semester which makes the most sense for me to concentrate in (probably American Foreign Policy). I have been told by others on this forum and via email correspondence with students that this is okay.... so hopefully they are right . I don't know what your specific field of interest is with IDEV, but I am looking forward to studying mine outside of a development focus- taking into account the political, economic, and security issues related to it. That's why I specifically did not apply to IDEV (and explained that in my SOP). Just a thought. Cali, great to hear that 4 classes + language or internship is reasonable. I just assumed I could only take 4 classes a semester! I suppose though the 5th class would be an additional cost? I am at a low-intermediate level of Spanish, which I hope to get to a solid intermediate level by the time I begin in the fall. Hope to take at least 1-2 language classes while I'm there, but I also don't want to eat away at my options to take IR classes, you know? If I can take a 5th class without an additional charge, that would be amazing. Good luck on your decision, rose! And Cali, see you in the fall!
  11. Decision made. Heading to SAIS!! I'm still wrapping my head around all of it, but am really excited. It is going to be a lot of work, but I'm ready. See you guys in the fall!
  12. Previous Schools: Top 10 LAC Previous Degrees and GPAs: BA Political Science & South Asian Studies, 3.38 (3.6 last 2 years) GRE Scores (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing): 690/640/4.5 Previous Work Experience (Years, Type): 4 years when entering school this fall, 3.5 when applying. 2 years overseas. .5 years in microfinance internship in Asia, 2 years permanent position at democracy NGO in DC, 1.5 years consulting for democracy groups in Asia Math/Econ Background: Intro to Econ (pass/failed it- pass), Methods/Statistics of Political Science (B+), Principles of Micro (A), Principles of Macro (A)-- last two were at night school at The Graduate School in DC. Foreign Language Background (if applicable to your program): Intermediate Spanish Intended Field of Study in Grad School: Democracy and governance policy and programming Long Term Professional Goals: USAID Governance Foreign Service Officer, think tanks on DG work, etc. Schools Applied to & Results: WWS (Rejected), Tufts Fletcher, American SIS, Johns Hopkins SAIS, Georgetown Government, GWU Elliot (All Accepted) Ultimate Decision & Why: Johns Hopkins SAIS!! I wanted to go to Georgetown Government since I was an undergrad, so I am still in a bit of shock with my decision to turn down that acceptance. Ultimately I realized I wanted to be more on the policy side of things rather than the theory side of the democracy field. Plus, SAIS's resource, career services, student morale and cohesiveness are one of the absolute best in the country. The Government program was very small, only a few years old, with far fewer resources than SAIS or other Georgetown programs. Whereas larger schools like Fletcher, Elliot, and SAIS sent lots of informaiton, held online chats, provided clear and helpful financial aid info, I felt I had to squeeze it out of Georgetown. This is understandable for a small program, but I realized that's not what I wanted for the next two years. Lastly, even though I would love to study democracy all day long, the broader degree and curriculum at SAIS would be advantageous for future careers should foreign aid continue to be put on the chopping block. Advice for Future Applicants: - Work Experience. I would say really focus on the WORK part of that phrase. Volunteering is good, teaching English in a foreign country is good, interning is good, but try to secure a full-time, staff position with increasing responsibility and promotions before you go to grad school. You will be able to speak articulately about your field and you will increase your chances of acceptance. If you are moving to DC after undergrad graduation, the job market is tough- take an unpaid internship (I did without financial support of my parents, worked in a coffee shop for 3 months while interning), or an admin job sort-of related to your field to get a foot in the door. You'll work your way up quickly. Others may disagree, but I really think there is no substitute for working in a full-time permanent position. - International experience. Get you some! No, study abroad doesn't count, everyone has that - SOPs. A lot of people say to write about your goals + their school = where you want to be, but I took a slightly different approach. I included analysis of the democracy landscape through an illustrative anecdote, what needed improving, and how I needed a degree from THEIR school to positively effect that change. I emphasized why I wanted them, not just a general IR degree, and why they should invest in *me*. I think this underscored my understanding of my sector beyond just 'I want to do this work' and that I really understood what made them and their degree unique - GREs. Nail them. I didn't put enough time into it and wish I had. They could have helped with scholarship money and definitely put me on the edge because of my fine-but-not-amazing GPA. Thanks to everyone at Grad Cafe for your sage advice and support over the past few months. I am so grateful! Good luck to future applicants
  13. Thanks for the reassurance, SAIS2013! Good to hear the concentration doesn't matter too much. At this point it mainly comes down to whether I want a broader degree at SAIS or focus specifically on my area of interest (democracy and governance) at Georgetown. And I have to make that decision in the next 3 days. Yikes.
  14. Another question, to piggyback on rebma's query-- My area of interest (democracy and governance), as I mentioned earlier, does not fit neatly into a specific concentration. I anticipate taking a number of IDEV classes, but I have this sense that I'll be floating around by myself amid other SAIS students. At Elliot and Georgetown, I would be neatly within a democracy and governance degree or concentration. Any comments for those of us who aren't ERE, South Asia, Latin America, SS, IDEV? How connected are people with their concentration, to what extent do they identify with them? Am I being overly anxious about something I shouldn't?
  15. I think in the DIstrict it's hard to get a relatively safe and nice neighborhood . There are very few places I would walk alone late at night- and most of those are non-residential places. The truth is DC is high-crime, unfortunately, and most of the neighborhoods, even the more upscale ones, are urban, not well-light, and not populated/crowded at night. You just have to pick a less-high-crime area . I would not be so glum if I were you- there are a lot of terrific neighborhoods that are wonderful for biking during the day, with great farmers markets, nearby parks, nice neighbors, and nearby Metro and/or bus stops. Taking the Metro or bus to school is not bad- almost everyone does it. If you are really into biking or walking, you can easily bike or walk from many places into the city to SAIS. I used to bike 3 miles into work, or walk 2 miles into work when I stayed with my fiance, who lived closer to my office. DC is a really small, very walkable city, and leisurely 30 or even 40 minute walks can be very enjoyable before and after a long day sitting at a desk/computer. I just saw OregonGal posted some great suggestions- definitely would agree with Columbia Heights, Woodley Park, U St and would add Capitol Hill and Potomac Ave as good suggestions. (Cap Hill is great esp if you are at SAIS- it's on the Red Line!) I would also add that you are still quite a ways out from when you would move in. Apartment turnover in DC is very high and a lot of people use Craigslist. I got both of my places in DC from Craigslist and they turned out great. Other friends lived in apartment complexes out in Pentagon City (which I'll add, is another area to look at if you don't mind living in a big complex without any character, but more safe and access to lots of retail). Many of these only come onto the market 1-2 months before they are available. My fiance and I are moving to DC in August and we won't start looking seriously until end of May. Most of what is available right now are summer housing/sublets. I would not be surprised if we won't find a place and commit until late June or early July. Hope that helps!
  16. tingschu, I don't know anything about the International House, but the location is terrific. Upon glancing at the website it looks like you would literally be sharing a room with someone else and have communal bathrooms-- like a college dorm I suppose. For the cost, it may be an ok deal.. it just depends on what you are looking for. If you were living in that area you would likely pay ~$1200 at minimum for a 3BR but you would have your own room in a much quieter, less occupied apartment (it would also be quite nice). If you lived further out- perhaps U Street area- you could pay more like $1000 for a room in a 2BR. (These are all rough estimates- take with a grain of salt). Utilities- internet, cable, electricity, etc- will run anywhere from $75-$150 a month per person in an average house. If you are careful you can get by with eating on under $150-200/month (excluding eating out). I guess the point I am trying to make is that for the location the price is good. Personally, I would rather live a little further out and not live in what is essentially a dorm. I don't think there's much of an upside to being a 5 minute walk from campus, as in undergrad. I would also not like to eat in a cafeteria/canteen and would save money by cooking for myself. But that's just me. If very close location, and not having to worry about preparing meals, is the most important factor to you, it's probably a good option.
  17. Thanks again for taking the time to respond. I have found several more technical classes, such as the ones you mentioned, in the economics and finance curriculum. I am interested more in policy making and policy analysis classes- technical government function classes if that makes sense.A few such courses in the Government department or GPPI) include Executive Branch Policymaking, Program Design and Evaluation, Managing Institutional Conflict, State and Federal Governance, etc. These are clearly more public policy classes than IR classes, so they may not be available through SAIS. Ideally I would like to include public policy classes in my grad school curriculum and want to see if it is possible at SAIS. The second dimension of a theoretical versus practical class (in my mind at least- not sure if this is making much sense to anyone outside my own head!) is the format- whether classes are focused on longer readings and require research/term papers versus whether they focus on case studies and require policy memos. I don't want to set up a false dichotomy here- a class can be both theoretical and practical, or require extensive readings and policy memos, etc. I'm just using these examples to try to get a sense of the nature of SAIS classes vis a vis the Georgetown ones with which I am more familiar. Thanks!
  18. Yes, in DC there are several neighborhoods with large, older houses with 4-5 bedrooms, one person per room. I know friends in Petworth/Georgia Avenue area who lived in group homes with 4 or so roommates. Sometimes you find people getting quite creative with turning a study or living room into a bedroom as well to cut down the cost of total rent per person. In these houses everyone has their own room- the houses just have more bedrooms (and likely in less upscale neighborhods) so rent is lower per person. My friends living in 4-5 person homes each have their own bedrooms and pay anywhere from $600-800 per month including utilities. I do not think you will find anyone who is interested in sharing a bedroom, unless it is with a significant other.
  19. SAIS2013, thanks for taking the time to share a thorough, thoughtful response! I have one additional question-- Something that appeals to me about the Georgetown curriculum is the opportunity to take very practical policy courses at GPPI to complement the more theoretical courses in MSFS and Government. (Some may disagree with me that SFS is theoretical, but I think in comparison to public policy classes, most IR courses are.) The GWU curriculum too contains a number of management and policymaking classes that seem more practical than IR/theory courses My perusing through the course listings on ISIS suggest to me that outside the economics curriculum, SAIS tends to be more IR/theoretical with few public policy/technical classes (aside from a few that give preference to MIPP candidates). This makes sense, as SAIS is an International Affairs school, not a public policy school. I just want to better understand the nature of the classes I would be taking versus what I would take at Georgetown. Would you agree or disagree with my understanding of the curriculum?
  20. I have posted this on another thread, but I disagree that you can't do $700/month with roommates. I lived with 2 roommates in Cap Hill/H Street and paid $700/month (without utilities) for a huge house. I have many friends who lived around Petworth/Georgia Avenue/Columbia Heights/NY Ave, etc who live in group homes and pay $700 or less per month. It is definitely possible to pay under $700, but you will sacrifice either a) proximity to a Metro station or proximity to a more-traveled on line (such as Blue or Red) living in a quieter house with few roommates (I have heard of people paying $600/month and living with 3-4 other people) and/or d) upscale/safer neighborhood. I never minded living in the more "dodgy" parts of Capitol Hill, but I did try to ride my bike or take the bus home if I was heading back late at night. Many areas of DC, regardless of how "nice" they are, carry some risk for females walking alone at night. Minimizing the distance to your nearest bus stand, Metro stop, etc are ways to reduce this risk and give you an option for late-night home travel. disitingrate, are you looking at literally sharing bedrooms with other people (4 people in a 2BR apartment)? I doubt you will find others willing to do that. Personally, I HATE switching Metro lines. Living on the same line that I work/go to school on is very important for quality of life, I think. I would rather have a 40 minute metro commute on one line than have to switch lines. It's much easier for three reasons. First, I prefer to sit down and read/listen to a podcast for an extended period of time rather than hop on one train for 10 minutes, get off, switch platforms, wait, and get on another for 10 minutes. Second, track work on metros in DC is common, and relying on two lines to get to work increases your chance of getting caught in a delay, station closure, or other frustration. Third, the metro runs only every 10-20 minutes late at night. It's incredibly frustrating to wait on a platform for 15 minutes for your train, only to have to switch stations a few minutes later and possibly wait another 10 or so minutes. Just my thoughts MYRNIST, I agree with a previous poster that anywhere near a metro station is going to be geared more towards younger professionals. Family/suburban neighborhoods usually have cars and single-family homes, whereas apartment complexes are crowded around Metro stations. If you live in Rosslyn you actually may be able to walk to Foggy Bottom, which I think would be terrific. For those of you looking at NoVa, remember that taxes in Virginia are different (I believe higher?) than those in DC- just something to consider when you're looking at cost.
  21. Thanks for this great info! I have a few follow-up questions if you don't mind- 1. Working while at SAIS? Is this possible? This is going to play into whether SAIS will be financially viable for me. Georgetown is more expensive, but if I can work 20 hrs/week at Gtown and not at SAIS it will make Gtown more affrdable. 2. If one does work at SAIS, how much does the fact that SAIS is tight-knit and a really happy student body impact your quality of life at SAIS? In other words, even though SAIS' student body/social scene is more cohesive and vibrant than the Gtown program I am considering (it's not SFS), if I am working part-time, will that even matter much? 3. How is SAIS for those of us not enrolling in the "best" concentrations? (Your list corresponds to what I have heard from the students and alums with whom I have spoken). My area of interest is democracy and governance, but I am not in the IDEV program. Some students have told me that concentration does not matter, and that some of the less strong concentrations are great because they allow more flexibility in taking a variety of courses, which is what I want. Would you agree? 4. Any thoughts on the classes/profs related to democracy and governance, if you can speak to that? Thanks!
  22. This question wasn't directed at me, hope it's ok if I chime in my two cents. I have a few friends who went to SAIS and have spoken to about 7 recent alums/current students in the last two weeks. My general sense is that ERE, IDEV, South Asia, and Latin America are some of the stronger concentrations. All have money, great faculty, and strong support from the school. A few people have told me the concentration you choose doesn't really matter- that it is useful in giving you a core network of students and faculty but not critical for your experience. Several have said that some of the functional studies have loose concentration requirements that help in providing flexibility for course selection, which they saw as a positive. However, a friend from undergrad who graduated from SAIS last year and concentrated in South Asian studies strongly recommended pursuing a regional, not functional concentration. This may have been influenced by his normative belief that understanding cultural context is critical, but I also got the sense that he felt the regional concentrations are stronger than the functional ones. I should also add that almost literally everyone with whom I have spoken have been within the concentrations I outlined above (specifically, IDEV, South Asia, and Latin America). I would really like to speak with students who are in some of the less popular functional studies to get their take.
  23. How are non-World Bank/finance folks feeling about SAIS? Everyone I know who is geared towards SAIS is either focused on WB, finance, consulting, or South Asia. I am not headed towards work in those areas and am thus having a hard time convincing myself that it's the right place for me.
  24. azrou, I totally agree. Not paying rent (except for domestic posts in DC) is huge. So too is hardship or COLA pay, which is the percentage differntial in pay received for serving at expensive posts or more difficult posts. It can be a pretty sizable increase to one's base salary. Language pay, as legallyproper referenced, is good for folks who score well on critical languages. FSOs with kids also save a lot on education, as tuition for children is covered overseas. The FS also has SLRP (student loan repayment program), which apparently is a huge help for FSOs trying to pay off student loans.
  25. Oh dear, isn't this the truth! Good luck with your decision
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